Takayuki YamadaToru TezukaNana KataseShun Oguri
Arakawa Under the Bridge (2012)
Medium: film
Year: 2012
Writer/director: Ken Iizuka
Original creator: Hikaru Nakamura
Actor: Takayuki Yamada, Shun Oguri, Mirei Kiritani, Nana Katase, Yu Shirota, Kento Hayashi, Takaya Kamikawa, Toru Tezuka, Masahiro Takashima, Eri Tokunaga, Natsumi Abe, Kurume Arisaka, Waka Inoue, Kazuyuki Asano, Takuto Sueoka, Raito Mashiko, Taro Suruga
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 115 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1880923
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 8 May 2016
It's the live-action movie of Hikaru Nakamura's manga, Arakawa Under the Bridge. I didn't like the anime, so I watched this film and liked that even less. If you want a second opinion, Tomoko bailed at the thirty-minute mark, despite having made it through 26 anime episodes.
It's the culmination of a live-action project that included a ten-part drama series on TBS/MBS. Same cast, same director. I understand the first half of this film is a compilation of the TV series, then its second half is an original sequel. In fairness, it's possible that the TV show is okay since the stuff I disliked was all in the second half. The first half just made my attention drift. I can live with that.
I'll give a quick synopsis of the movie's version of the story. Kou/Recruit is an uptight young businessman with an ice-cold dad. Nino is a girl who claims to be Venusian and obvious from the film's first shot that she's telling the truth. She can't be human, anyway. She can breathe underwater and do leaps like Spider-Man. Nino lives under a bridge by the Arakawa River with a bunch of eccentric homeless freaks who get almost no screen time, except for Sonchou (man in kappa suit) and to a lesser extent Hoshi (guitarist wearing a star on his head). Nothing memorable happens until the film decides it needs a conventional storyline, whereupon it starts heading for a finale about Kou And His Father And Their Issues Regarding Kou's Late Mother. This is so undercooked that you'd probably have to have watched the TV series to give a damn about it. This film certainly didn't make me do so.
After that is another mishandled emotional climax, this time with Kou and Nino. Again, this was bad enough to make me actively dislike the film. I'm not wild about Mirei Kiritani as Nino. She looks perfect (as does almost everyone, in fact) and she's likeable, but she's too normal for me. She doesn't capture the character's oddness.
There's stuff I liked, though. The cast is actually quite good. Takayuki Yamada makes Hoshi the best thing in the film, finding a charisma I'd never have expected in Hoshi while still being petty and childish. Kento Hayashi is similarly far better than I'd expected as Kou, subtly but unmistakably playing the character's dickish and even semi-villainous side in the film's early stretches. I'd been expecting a personality-free pretty boy. I'm delighted to be proved wrong. Kou gets proper character growth and carries the film well.
There's also some interestingly surreal theatricalism from the writer/director/editor. I think he's failed with the film as a whole (and Tomoko wasn't impressed with his editing either), but I'm impressed by how far he's willing to push it stylistically. Dive beneath the river and you enter an underwater world so blue and pure that realism stops being a concern and it becomes magical realism instead. Sonchou breaks the fourth wall and always knows how far we are through the film. At one point all the bridge-dwellers assist him mutely in Brechtian absurdism outside a church. The climactic scene between Kou and his father either takes place by the riverside or in a cornfield, depending on editing whim. This is cool. This is pushing us away from filmmaking as usual. (Apparently the TV series went even further.) This is the kind of thing you need to make a success of Arakawa Under the Bridge.
It's a shame they couldn't have been as brave with the script. In fairness, though, those underused bridge-dwellers will have got more screen time in the TV series. That's what justifies their existence (if you're taking a broader view). Otherwise there would have been no point in including them. Shiro, P-ko and Maria are practically extras in the movie, but the biggest sore thumb is Stella. The original can go from being a tiny girl to a ten-foot-tall savage muscleman with a glowing purple death aura. The live-action version has none of that. She doesn't look like Stella and she doesn't have Stella's powers. You'd never guess she was even meant to be Stella in the first place if people weren't calling her that name. Why's she there at all? Answer: because the TV series had ten episodes to fill.
It's a failure. It's stylistically bold and I quite like the cast, but it's a failure. It's a snoozer until the end, when it turns bad squared. That's the opinion of someone who didn't watch the TV series, though. All I've seen is the anime, which is quite different in how far it's prepared to depart from reality. (This film has improved my opinion of the anime, incidentally, which in fairness had five or six episodes that were genuinely good.)